In torrential, wet conditions in Qinhuangdao, Jeffrey Lee and Alessio Picariello score podiums in both races after fighting at the front in Rounds 7 & 8 of the 2019 China GT Championship. A stellar qualifying performance from the #88 EWS Craft-Bamboo Racing entry saw Picariello start from P1 for Race 1 and P3 in Race 2 for Lee. The J-Fly Racing pair’s strong form carried over into Saturday and Sunday, and fought hard up front in both wet races.
Qualifying 1 | Alessio Picariello
P1 – 1:34.193
Qualifying 2 | Jeffrey Lee
P3 – 1:37.092
Heavy downpours just before Race 1 meant that the track had lots of standing water before the start, catching out pole sitter Alessio Picariello on his outlap and spinning him into the wall. There was minor contact but the assistance needed to recover the car caused him to start from the back of the grid. At the start, Picariello wasted no time in making up the lost ground, and scythed through the slower traffic. In the wet conditions, the young Belgian kept his head down and by the end of his stint, he had worked his way back up to P2.
Just at the start of the pit-window, an untimely safety car was called, resulting in the advantage being lost. When Taiwanese GT driver Jeffrey Lee took over the controls, he initially struggled with the low levels of grip and dropped back to 6th position. However, during the course of his stint, a great drive in the tricky conditions meant that Lee had fought his way back up to 3rd place. In the closing stages of the race, Lee held off attacks for the final podium spot and crossed the line to take P3.
The inclement weather continued on into Sunday for Race 2, and Jeffrey Lee took the start for the #88 entry from P3. Due to the heavy amounts of standing water, the race was delayed by an hour and began under safety car conditions for the first 15 minutes. When the race finally resumed, Lee held his own and kept the car on the circuit whilst others fell off the circuit due to the soaking conditions. During his entire stint, Lee made no mistakes and maintained the gap to the leaders, and handed the car over to Picariello at the halfway mark.
Quick work from the EWS Craft-Bamboo Racing crew meant that Picariello emerged from the pits in P2, and set his sights on closing up the gap to the leader. Sublime car control in the torrential rain meant that Picariello reduced the deficit with every passing lap, and with 20 minutes to go, he was right on the back of the 1st placed car. With the time ticking away, Picariello attempted different lines through the tight and twisty circuit looking for opportunities to make a move for the lead. However, despite Picariello’s pace advantage, poor visibility behind the leader meant that Picariello hit a puddle of standing water and spun. The Belgian was fortunate to recover the car quickly and held on to 2nd place, but it was apparent that the track conditions were too dangerous and the race was stopped with 10 minutes to go.
Darryl O'Young | Director of EWS Craft-Bamboo Racing
"It was nice to go to a new circuit in Qinhuangdao, and the circuit was great track! Despite the bad weather, our drivers handled it perfectly. The car was fast, but we got a little unlucky with the safety car in Race 1, and in Race 2 both drivers did phenomenally in the tough conditions bring us two podium results. Our goal was to close up the gap to the championship leaders and played it a bit safe, but it worked out really well with the gap now at 8 points going into the final two race weekends of the 2019 China GT Championship.
Jeffrey Lee | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“It was a tricky weekend with the rain and new track surface, but we leave Qinhuangdao impressed with the new facility and with two podiums in two races. This is the first time this year that we have achieved a double podium finish in the China GT Championship, showing our pace regardless of the conditions. Great job from Alessio and the team, and we manage to close up the gaps to the championship leader going into the final 2 race weekends of the season!”
Alessio Picariello | Driver #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3
“Nice to achieve our first double podium in the China GT Championship, but I feel we could have done more. Nevertheless Jeffrey drove great in both races to keep the times competitive and maintained the gaps, and there are only 2 weekends left with an 8 point gap to the leaders. Already looking forward to Tianjin, a circuit new to me which will be a challenge but I’m looking forward to ending the season strongly!”